Pepper's Needs Some Help With Pass Rush.........
Bears DE Julius Peppers isn’t having standout season, but he needs some help
by Sean Jensen email@example.com November 5, 2011 12:26AM
Updated: November 5, 2011 12:39AM
Julius Peppers, who has sacked Michael Vick more than any other NFL player, isn’t interested in that stat or in the Monday night spotlight. ‘‘We need a win,’’ he told me emphatically. ‘‘That’s what’s important. Monday night and all that other stuff is irrelevant. We need a win.’’
Peppers is right, of course. (Yeah, so at least one guy admits that it's a very crucial game)
The Bears hold the No. 6 playoff position in the NFC, but they need to start stringing together some victories and distancing themselves from other teams in the conference. But if the Bears are going to get rolling, they need their defense to steady itself and provide the consistency it did late last season.No defensive player is more important than Peppers, but he needs help — a lot of it.
Peppers leads the Bears with four sacks, but that’s tied for 30th in the NFL. The greater problem, though, is the lack of production from his supporting cast. They say sacks come in bunches, and that has held true for the Bears. They had five against the Atlanta Falcons in the season opener and five about a month later against the Minnesota Vikings. But they were shut out once and held to one in three other games. The Bears are 27th in the league in sacks per pass play. (It's about time someone had a sit down with Rod Marinelli about this. Creating sack meisters is supposed to be his specialty. WTF is up with this Rod?)
Peppers is doing a decent job of getting pressures. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s tied for eighth with 18. But Israel Idonije is the only other Bears defender on that list, and he’s 33rd with 10. Peppers was relatively quiet in a couple of games, but he was absolutely dominant against the Vikings (two sacks) and played through a knee injury against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to pressure Josh Freeman, including on the game-sealing interception by D.J. Moore. (The pressures are nice but they're not drive stalling, intimidating, game changing plays like big sacks can be)
The bye couldn’t have come at a better time for him. ‘‘I’m feeling good; I’m feeling almost 100 percent,’’ he said. ‘‘It was important to get that time off.’’ But Peppers needs help. Amobi Okoye has been a pleasant addition, notching a sack in the last two games. But Henry Melton virtually has disappeared after getting two sacks in the season opener. Even with the Bears’ sometimes-generous statistics, Melton has only one tackle in the last three games. Matt Toeaina, meanwhile, has been slowed by a knee injury. (Melton needs to grab some serious pine time and while Okoye and Paea get the starters reps for awhile. It would be nice to get Toe back soon too. That threesome in rotation has played better than one with AA and Melton. Melton has been a big disappointment lately)
But perhaps the biggest issue has been the health of Corey Wootton, who flashed plenty of potential at the end of his rookie season. The former Northwestern standout showed up to camp in terrific shape, but he injured a knee and required arthroscopic surgery. Then he broke his left hand after a brief return. If not for the knee injury, Wootton might have pushed Idonije for a starting job. But now he’s just trying to get healthy and prepare for another late-season push. (Yeah, and all because Lovie was an idiot for allowing him to play ST coverage in a meaningless preseason game)
‘‘It’s been very frustrating because of how I worked in the offseason, preparing to be an integral part of this defensive line,’’ he said. ‘‘But sometimes it’s not where you start but where you finish.’’ (Let's just hope he doesn't have to spend the rest of the year rehabbing again?